Will Nike Thrive Following The Colin Kaepernick Ad Campaign?

Nike turned
plenty of heads when it revealed it had onboarded former NFL quarterback Colin
Kaepernick to be the face of the 30th anniversary of the “Just Do
It” campaign. The Kaepernick selection was undoubtedly polarizing, since he was
the leader of the on-field player protests, kneeling during the National Anthem
to call attention to racial injustice and social inequality.

The ad kicks off showing a tight black-and-white photo of
Kaepernick’s face with copy that reads: “Believe in something. Even if it means
sacrificing everything.” The second part of the ad includes a commercial
titled: “Dream Crazy”
featuring Kaepernick as the voice over.

The ad
generated $43 million in media exposure
in the day after it was
released, which was primarily neutral to positive, according to Apex Marketing
Group. Online sales grew 31% from
the Sunday Sept. 2 through Tuesday, Sept. 4, according to Edison Trends.

The RTP editors
discuss whether the campaign will be a success for Nike in the long haul.
Additionally, the team touches on some lessons retailers and brands can learn
from this recent campaign as it plays out.


Debbie Hauss,
Let’s face it: Controversy brings attention to brands.
Sometimes the outcome is all good or all bad, but most of the time it’s
somewhere in between. In this case it looks like Nike’s business is definitely
going to benefit from the Kaepernick ad. A CNBC analyst actually called the ad a “stroke
of genius” and estimates that the brand will see a 15% increase in stock
value within the year. It didn’t hurt that the ad was extremely well done and
featured LeBron James and Serena Williams in addition to Kaepernick. And
Serena’s most recent newsworthy actions at the U.S. Open will likely give the
Nike ad an extra boost.

Adam Blair, Executive
I’m with Gartner L2’s Scott Galloway on this one: signing Colin
Kaepernick is a genius, “gangsta” move by Nike. As Galloway says, the brand is trading in an older, more
conservative audience of potential sneaker buyers (probably a small and
shrinking group) for a younger, more diverse, more progressive cohort. As for
the negative publicity — and I’m sure there will be lots of it — Galloway’s other
point makes sense to me as well: everything, sports very much included, has
already become politicized. Sitting it out on the sidelines just isn’t an
option any more for brands that want to stay in the public conversation. Let’s
also note that Nike is not just making a political point; their full commercial tugged at my emotional
heartstrings — and this is coming from a person who really doesn’t care about

Glenn Taylor, Senior
In an era of authenticity-driven retail, retailers and brands are
in a position where they can get their biggest customers to rally around them,
and bring new customers in who may be drawn to a certain cause. We’re going to
see more of this in retail, especially since so many companies are looking for
ways to acquire and retain customers. It only makes sense that retailers would
continue to appeal to consumers’ emotions, which drive many purchases and
shopping visits. Make no bones about it, Nike knew what they were doing here.
Colin Kaepernick had the highest-selling
NFL jersey for a brief period two years ago
right after he first
knelt during the National Anthem, and one year later remained in the top
50 for merchandise sales
despite not being on a roster at the time. Even
with anticipated criticism and blowback from a portion of fans, Nike clearly
sees that Kaepernick and the values he represents continue to be massive
audience drivers.

Bryan Wassel,
Associate Editor:
I think Nike made the right decision to create this ad.
As my colleague Adam mentions, putting Colin Kaepernick front-and-center trades
an older, more conservative audience with a younger cohort. Gen Z is poised to
become the biggest generation in terms of spending, representing 40% of consumers by 2020,
and Nike’s commercial will appeal to them at an age when their buying habits
are still fresh and malleable. Shoppers care about brands’ viewpoints on
important topics more than ever, and Nike chose to take a stand that both keeps
it in the spotlight and appeals to arguably the most important demographic in
the country.

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